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Ilios Nano

Thermal Masking Could Keep 3D-Printing Startup in Business

The technology saves production costs by eliminating pricey electronics, mirrors, and optical assemblies needed for DLP projectors, LCD masks, and laser drawing methods .

Following an announcement in December that it would be selling its business, startup Ilios 3D makes a comeback with a miniature 3D printer sporting an innovative technology for stereolithography (SLA) 3D printing. The company hopes that the affordability of its new Ilios Nano will be helpful to let it stay in business while maintaining a focus on research and development.

The company began through a crowdsourcing campaign on IndieGogo producing desktop 3D printers known for their ease of use, low cost, and handcrafted design. The announcement for imminent closing came after the company was having trouble meeting the high demands for its customer base.

New Technology, Affordable Cost

Most of the company's printers use SLA 3D printing. SLA selectively cures 3D printing inks in a vat using ionizing light waves, typically on the UV spectrum. A platform moves upward layer by layer to gradually produce 3D-printed designs. A digital light projector (DLP) or some type of mask on the projection surface allows UV light through selectively to produce distinct layer patterns.

The Ilios Nano 2 differs from typical SLA and DLP printer designs because it uses a thermal masking technology. It moves a thermal headpiece under a sheet of glass with a heat-sensitive coating. The coating becomes less opaque when heated, allowing UV light from a source below to pass through and cure—or harden—ink in discrete patterns. The speed at which the thermal head moves controls the resolution of the printed design, and a fan is operated automatically between layers to cool the glass before starting a new layer.

The Nano printer saves costs by replacing traditional methods of DLP projection, LCD masking, and laser drawing—all of which require pricey electronics, mirrors and optical assemblies. The company mentions some tradeoffs in resolution for its low-cost printer, but highlights it as a small, entry level 3D printers with decent resolution for customers in education and DIY initiatives.

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